Five runs in the last two innings put the Kansas University softball team back in the game, but the late surge was not enough for the Jayhawks to bring home a victory.
After watching Kansas erase deficits of 3-0 and 5-3 in sixth and seventh innings, scrappy Valparaiso dealt the Jayhawks a blow they couldn’t come back from with three hits in the bottom of the seventh, which gave the Crusaders a 6-5 victory Saturday at Arrocha Ballpark.
“I loved the fight we had at the end. We just need to have it from the beginning,” KU coach Megan Smith said. “We had a lackluster warm-up that played into the mentality of the first few innings, and we just weren’t there.”
Through five innings, KU trailed 3-0 and had recorded just three hits. Starting pitcher Alex Jones was chased from the game after 12⁄3 innings, and Valpo’s batters dotted the box score with hits up and down the lineup.
With one swing of the bat in the top of the sixth, that all changed, as senior first baseman Amanda Jobe ripped a three-run home run to right-center field to tie the game and inject new energy into the KU dugout.
“The girls before me did great and got a couple of hits to get on base, and I could tell when I was walking up there that we kind of had shaken her (Valpo pitcher Alex Lagesse) up a little bit,” Jobe said. “I got a good pitch to hit and just tried to put a good swing on it.”
The home run, her first of the season, moved Jobe into sixth place on KU’s all-time list (with 18) and also moved the Jayhawks from lazy and lethargic into aggressive at the plate.
After Valpo regained the lead, 5-3, in the bottom of the sixth — Valpo was the home team on the scoreboard because the game was part of the KU Invitational round-robin tournament — the Jayhawks responded once more. Sara Ramirez led off with a base hit, Allie Clark, who relieved Jones on the mound, tripled to drive her in, and freshman Mariah Montgomery followed with her second hit of the day to tie the game at 5. The two-run seventh, and ensuing game-winning RBI by Valpo, appropriately capped off an up-and-down afternoon.
“It’s tough, but you have to stay mentally stable,” Clark said. “You can’t get too happy, and you can’t get too down on yourself.”
Despite the loss, Smith said she was pleased with the way her team battled back late and was not all that disappointed with a weekend split with Valparaiso.
“We’re very similar teams,” Smith said. “We played them two games and were .500. That’s probably the way it should be, but I felt like our intensity level certainly wasn’t there today.”
KU will return to action at noon today for a doubleheader against Missouri State.